Witness Canada’s natural wonders in the company of Indigenous hosts
Whether it’s backpacking through remote mountain wilderness, feeling the adventurous thrill of watching a polar bear cross the Arctic ice or taking a leisurely stroll along a rushing river, Canadians have all sorts of adventures awaiting in their backyard.
Of course, not all activities offer the same depth of experience. Indigenous tourism offers visitors “a completely different perspective” of the natural world, says Keith Henry, who is Métis and President and CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada.
Witnessing natural wonders in the company of an Indigenous host adds a powerful dimension to these outdoor experiences. As Indigenous tourism operators share their intimate knowledge of the land and animals, visitors feel a greater connection with their surroundings – as well as a deeper reverence for nature.
A hiking trail becomes more meaningful when you learn about the peoples who have used the same path for generations to survive on the land, Henry says. Searching for northern lights in the night sky takes on new significance once you know the spiritual importance of this phenomenon to First Nations Peoples.
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Henry explains that Indigenous Peoples have long-standing relationships with animals on land and in the water, and traditional knowledge guides healthy interactions to this day. Indigenous hosts share “a completely different lens on how we impact ecosystems around us,” Henry says. Respect is key, for the land, the animals and the Indigenous communities inviting visitors in.
Land and nature-focused tours also offer travellers a chance to slow down and recharge. Some experiences take place in remote and rugged settings that are both breathtaking and humbling, Henry says.
“People are given an opportunity to disconnect from the busyness of emails and phone calls and social media and every other thing that distracts people from just taking a moment to realize the importance of the land and the water and the animals and the fish and everything around them,” Henry says.
For a renewed perspective on the natural world, start with these three once-in-a-lifetime outdoor experiences across Canada.
Travel the Arctic alongside Inuit guides
Experience northern Canada on a five-day trip with Inuit guides across the Northwest Territories and Yukon. With Tundra North Tours, you’ll travel by vehicle, boat and plane to diverse and striking landscapes, from the Inuvialuit hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic ocean to the rugged wilderness of Tombstone Territorial Park in Yukon.
This voyage also includes stops at an Inuit whaling camp on the MacKenzie Delta, a tour of the largest and most northern greenhouse in the world — where plants thrive with 24-hours of summer daylight — and a drive down the remote Dempster Highway that crosses the Arctic Circle.
An Inuit-owned company that offers other ways for travellers to experience the landscape and culture of Canada’s north, like a nine-hour boat tour exploring the many channels, views and abundant wildlife of the MacKenzie Delta. Based in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, the company also rents bikes, canoes and kayaks for those looking for human-powered ways to explore the land.
Get up-close-and-personal with earth’s largest mammals
All aboard for a front row seat to see earth’s largest mammals in their natural habitat, courtesy of the small boat whale-watching tours offered by Essipit Cruises.
Departing from a wharf in Essipit, Quebec – an Innu reserve north close to Tadoussac on the mighty St Lawrence River – your experience captain will chart a course for the deep-sea trench where food for the whales is plentiful, sharing stories and knowledge from a life spent on these waters along the way.
And, because you’ll be expertly ferried in a nimble, intimate zodiac boat, you’ll get to experience Belugas, minke whales, humpbacks and the super-sized blue whale practically at eye-level, meaning you’ll feel as close as possible without being in the water with them. (Keep an eye out for seals, too!)
See grizzly bears up close on an unforgettable wildlife adventure
As Sea Wolf Adventures’ First Nation guides take you into the Great Bear Rainforest to search for grizzly bears on Vancouver Island, B.C., you’ll learn along the way about the traditions, history and territory of the tribes that make up the Kwakwaka’wakw people.
Magnificent grizzly bears are the stars of this tour, but you’ll also watch for whales and dolphins dipping in and out of the waters, and eagles soaring overhead. These wildlife encounters all take place from a safe distance, alongside Indigenous guides who deeply respect the animals that call this land home. You’ll leave this wildlife journey with the lasting memories of amazing animal sightings, alongside an understanding of the cultural significance of this breathtaking region.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.